I remember when I first heard Ben’s voice. My back was turned and my head was deep inside one of the colorful shops on the lively streets of Laxman Jhula India. I heard a soft mans voice with an Australian accent coming from behind me, “Excuse me, but where did you get your hula hoop? I have a friend looking for one.” I turned around to face the inquiring voice.
And in that precious split second, I believe I truly fell in love at first sight.
Ben was a tall man who wore a wide white smile and an irresistible set of dimples. He had messy dirty blonde curls, and the most gentle hazel brown eyes I have ever seen. They had a special light in them. A hunger for life, endless depths of curiosity, and large sparks of playfulness.
As casual and confident as I could, I answered his question, “I brought it from America.”
Our eyes were locked. And we both knew. We didn’t know what we knew. But we both knew we wanted to find out.
He asked his next question, (through our journey I discovered Ben was clever and wise with his questions ) “Do you want to get a chai?” He asked. “Sure but I just had some…” I answered “You’re in India!” He reminded me.
And so we began to make our way to a nearby chai shop. I followed him and silently admired his every step. He looked so comfortable in this country which I had been in for only 3 days.
Only 3 days in India and I was already in love…
On the way, he paused at a shop to get cigarettes and casually noted out loud, “This man is NEVER at his station.” Ben threw down some amount of rupees, tucked the money on the mans desk, helped himself to a pack of cigarettes, and continued. As he continued walking, he gently let his hand graze over a street cows nose.
I was mesmerized. “He has to be doing this on purpose.” I thought.
We sat inside a small café overlooking the Ganges river and enjoyed masala chai over amazing conversations. We spoke about anything and everything. Our past travels, our pasts in general, our likes and dislikes, goals, dreams, it was an effortless flow of conversation, and we were feeling closer to each other with every moment.
The early day became late afternoon, and we became inseparable. We spent the evening side by side as we went to a variety of lively social gatherings together. We spent the night embracing each other and sharing intimacy.
Completely in love, Ben and I decided to partner up and travel through India together.
From Rishikesh we went to Pushkar, made our way to Bundi, then Orcha, onto Kajuraho, Chitrakoot, and finally Varanasi. Everyday was full of play, exploration, lessons, laughter, and unforgettable experiences.
I loved how he gave me space. I felt so free with him, and also so safe. He generously taught me lessons that have shaped the woman I am now. He was my first travel love….
As in love as we were, Ben and I both knew we would eventually separate. He had a job lined up in China, and I was too in love with India to leave. We understood our paths would go in different directions.
It’s a unique feeling, separating from one you are in love with. Not breaking up…but leaving each other to allow the other to continue on their dream path.
We knew the whole time the day would come, but that did not make it any easier. In fact, when you are so present with someone, and fully taking in every moment together, it almost makes it harder. We enjoyed our precious presence with each other so much, thoughts of the inevitable future were rare between us.
Ben and I eventually faced the inevitable and separated in Varanasi India. We simply held each other and tried to enjoy our final fleeting moments together.
Ben and I have not seen each other since our separation 3 years ago.
It took sometime for us to heal and process….but today, Ben and I are wonderful friends.
We talk semi-often and cherish our memories together. We joke and share experiences with each other. We give each other advice and listen well to one another.
Looking back on my time with Ben brings me a smile and moves my soul. Our time together was so valued and we learned wonderful lessons together.
The greatest thing Ben taught me was presence. With him, I didn’t want to miss a single moment, so I remained actively present with him. He reflected self-worth and and a light-hearted attitude that I carry in my spirit, and he graced me with my first travel love experience.
Forever grateful for this man Ben. Thank you for revealing yourself to me.